China: As Tiananmen anniversary approaches, tragedy still alive

The organisation also called for the release of those imprisoned in 1989 or jailed since for seeking a reassessment of events at Tiananmen.

Amnesty highlighted the case of Shi Tao, a writer and journalist sentenced on 30 April 2005 to 10 years imprisonment for providing an overseas web site with an official document alerting journalists to possible social instability around the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. He was charged with “illegally revealing state secrets abroad.”

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Tiananmen has not been forgotten by the Chinese people and it should not be forgotten by the rest of the world.

“Demands by Chinese citizens for justice continue. Yet not only are these demands ignored, the Chinese authorities continue to persecute journalists and activists and deny their right to free speech.

“The government must stop the arrest and harsh treatment of people who express their views about Tiananmen or share information about the event on the internet.

“We reiterate our call on the Chinese government to conduct an independent inquiry into the killing of unarmed students and demonstrators. Those found responsible should be tried and brought to justice.

"We also call on the government to release all those who are still imprisoned in connection with the Tiananmen crackdown and who never received fair trials.”

Chinese leaders have taken the position that foreign concerns regarding the 1989 crackdown on unarmed citizens are “outdated”.

However, the on-going passion that surrounds the issue in China is clear from the continuous string of detentions of citizens who seek to post information on the internet regarding the dead or missing from 1989:

  • Kong Youping, a former trade union activist was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in September 2004 after he posted articles and poems on the internet calling for a reassessment of the 1989 pro-democracy movement.
  • Huang Qi was sentenced in 2003 to 5 years imprisonment for hosting an online discussion forum on Tiananmen and human rights abuses by the Chinese government.

The Tiananmen Mothers group was set up by Ding Zilin after her son was killed in Beijing on 4 June, 1989 and has never ceased to call for an independent review of the events of 1989.

The group seeks justice for the 126 relatives whose loved ones were killed, despite persistent harassment and intimidation including periodic detention and house arrest by the authorities in an effort to prevent them from exercising their legal rights.

The outpouring of emotion among Chinese citizens at the death of Zhao Ziyang, former Secretary General of the CCP, with hundreds mourning and seeking to show their final respects, showed that Tiananmen is still a living issue for the Chinese people.

The fact that international opinion still considers the events of 1989 and China’s human rights record today of relevance was recently demonstrated by the EU’s decision in May of this year not to lift its embargo on arms sales to China.

EU ministers specifically pointed to the need for the release of people still held in prison for their involvement in Tiananmen, along with other improvements in human rights such as reform of the Chinese system of detention without trial known as ‘Re-education through Labour’.

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao stated in New Delhi on 12 April 2005, “only a country that respects history, takes responsibility for history and wins over the trust of peoples in Asia and the world at large can take greater responsibilities in the international community.”

“Only by following this advice and addressing past and present injustices will the Chinese authorities win the trust of its citizens and the respect of the international community,” said Kate Allen.

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